Filing week for races in Thurston County kicks off today, and there could be a few surprises.
One race for Thurston County commissioner has drawn two candidates – Republican Patrick Beehler and Democrat Dan Venable – to challenge recent Democratic appointee Karen Valenzuela. They are running for a one-year unexpired term, but their campaigns won’t be official until they plunk down filing fees and register at the county Auditor’s Office.
Another interesting race is shaping up at the Port of Olympia. On Friday, retired Department of Ecology manager Dave Peeler announced his run for an open seat. Will Stakelin, government-affairs director for Olympia Master Builders, already filed fundraising paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission indicating he also will file, and local longshoreman Jeff Davis announced a week ago that he is running.
Numerous city councils, school boards, and county fire, cemetery, park and recreation districts also have seats open in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and outlying communities. The county’s top elections official senses a growing interest by candidates.
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“Coming off 2008, it was such an exciting year, people were so energized. I think there is a little of that momentum and people starting to get interested in politics again,” Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman said Friday.
“You also have a number of races on the ballot that have very low filing fees. I expect we’ll have a few wild cards next week that go under everyone’s radar,” she added.
Wyman said filing runs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Online filing is accepted from 8 a.m. Monday until 3 p.m. Friday, but online filers also must bring their online printouts by 5 p.m. Friday.
Ballot order is decided by drawing lots after filing closes Friday afternoon.
Davis, Peeler and Stakelin are running for the port seat that commissioner Paul Telford is giving up. It’s a nonpartisan seat, but Peeler is a precinct committee officer for Democrats, Davis is tied to labor groups and Stakelin is a Republican PCO in the south county.
Peeler said he recently retired from the state Department of Ecology after more than three decades, and he thinks he can bring that background to bear to issues ranging from the port’s dredging, toxic cleanup, East Bay redevelopment and Capitol Lake projects.
“They just have a lot of environment issues on their plate. I think I can bring a lot to that to make the port a constructive player,” Peeler said. Secondly, he said, he’d build on Telford’s effort to get the port “to be transparent” and open in its operations and decisions.
Davis has lived in Olympia for six years and spent two years on the Cowlitz County Planning Commission, according to a statement. He also has served as the state government affairs director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Stakelin works for Olympia Master Builders and has run its political action committee that donates regularly to Republicans. But Stakelin said he is running independent of his job and wants to make sure the port’s assets, including a marine terminal, are used to generate revenues and good-paying jobs.
“This is not a situation where I am running for any one special interest group. I’m running for the environment, working families and good paying jobs. I’m running to energize our economy,” Stakelin said.
Port Commissioner Bill McGregor also is up for election, seeking his first full four-year term.
Beehler is trying to raise his profile in his candidacy against Valenzuela. He plans for supporters to meet at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia parking lot at 8:30 a.m. today, then walk over to the Auditor’s Office, where he will file his candidacy at the County Courthouse.
OLYMPIA CITY COUNCIL
The council has four of seven seats up for grabs this year, and the positions have drawn more than a dozen candidates. A dispute over development on the city’s isthmus between Capitol Lake and Budd Inlet might be firing up some interest.
Three of the four council incumbents are running: Joan Machlis, Joe Hyer and Jeff Kingsbury. Karen Messmer has announced she will not run again.
Three have announced bids for Messmer’s seat: Karen Rogers, Amy Tousley and Karen Veldheer. Two are set to face Kingsbury: Janine Gates and Stephen Buxbaum. Jeannine Dellwo Roe and James Wellings are poised to oppose Machlis. And Anthony Sermonti has announced a run against Hyer.
LACEY CITY COUNCIL
Four council seats are up for election, but only Position 5 incumbent John Darby has filed to raise money to run.
TUMWATER CITY COUNCIL
Three council seats are up, including Valenzuela’s former position, but no one has filed to seek the positions. Council member Neil McClanahan also is running for mayor unopposed; he could face a political challenge after his recent drunken-driving arrest.
Eighteen out of 40 school board seats from all eight Thurston County school districts will be on the ballot this year. All are four-year terms except in the Olympia School District, where all three board members up for election were appointed last year from a field of multiple candidates.
Those three — Allen Miller, Eileen Thomson and Mark Campeau — already have declared their candidacies. Miller is running for the final two years of a term vacated last year by ex-board member Rich Nafziger. Thomson and Campeau will be running for four-year terms.
In North Thurston, board member Chuck Namit, who has been on the board since 1993, has already declared his candidacy.
IN OTHER RACES
Olympia Municipal Court Judge Scott Ahlf also is up for re-election. So are two council seats and the mayoral seat in Bucoda, three council seats and the mayoral seat in Rainier, three council seats in Tenino, and four council seats and the mayoral seat in Yelm.
Statewide, three seats in the House of Representatives are up for election after new members were appointed to fill vacancies created by two deaths and a gubernatorial appointment. Those are in Eastern Washington in the 9th, 15th and 16th districts.
Also, two judicial positions go on the ballot – for the Court of Appeals in King County and Superior Court in Clark County.
With hundreds of seats coming up for election statewide, Secretary of State Sam Reed put out a call to voters, urging them to consider a run for office.
“There will be hundreds of nonpartisan offices up for election this year throughout Washington, but unfortunately, many of them usually have only one candidate running,” Reed said in a news release. “I hope more people will consider running for public office as a way to give back and get involved in their community.”
He said he has started a “Find Your One Thing” program that encourages students and others to find “one thing in which they become more civically involved.”
Olympian reporters Brad Shannon, Venice Buhain and Matt Batcheldor contributed to this report.